The Biggest Difference Between A Cortado And A Cortadito

The world of coffee can be a tad intimidating at times. If you're venturing beyond the standard cup of black coffee, there's a ton of coffee jargon waiting for you. First, there are all the different ways in which you can make a coffee; Moka pots, French presses, espresso machines, drip machines, and equipment like a siphon or a Chemex that look like they belong in a chemistry lab, not your neighborhood cafe. And just when you're finally getting to terms with the basics of milk-based drinks like cappuccinos, flat whites, lattes, macchiatos, and mochas, there come words like cortado and cortadito to put a spanner in the works.

If there's one thing we know about coffees however, it's that things can seem more confusing than they really are. A cortado, Knothole Coffee Roasters explains, is an espresso-based drink of Spanish or Portuguese origin whereas a cortadito comes from Cuba. Cortado gets its name from cortar, the Spanish verb for cut (via Sprudge). True to its name, a cortado is made by "cutting" the acidity and bitterness of a shot of espresso with equal parts of steamed milk.

Going by the Spanish language, adding the ito suffix to cortado indicates that a cortadito is essentially just a smaller version of an already small cortado (via Roasty Coffee). A cortadito then, some think, is more or less simply the Cuban version of the Spanish cortado. Others, however, think that the difference between the two coffees goes beyond just the countries in which they are enjoyed.

The Cuban cortadito has a sweet surprise

According to Knothole Coffee Roasters, the key difference between a cortado and a cortadito is that where the former is nothing more than half parts espresso and half parts steamed milk, a cortadito uses pre-sweetened espresso which is then topped with steamed milk. The ratio of the pre-sweetened espresso to steamed milk can be equal but can also be three parts espresso and one part milk. Furthermore, Homegrounds points out that the milk in a cortadito can also sometimes be replaced by sweetened condensed milk.

Similar to a cafe Cubano which is sweetened espresso but without any milk, the sweetened coffee for a cortadito can be made in one of two ways: By whipping a shot of espresso with sugar or, by sprinkling sugar into a Moka pot before brewing the coffee in. The latter is a more popular method to make cortadito in Cuban cafes, but if you'd like the thick and frothy espuma on top of your cortadito, whipping sugar with a small amount of coffee before pouring steamed milk into it is the way to go. Some even prefer to leave the sugar entirely out of the equation and simply top off the usual shot of espresso with sweetened condensed milk instead. Depending on how you like your coffee, you can tweak the way in which you brew a cortadito to make it exactly to your liking.